Meantime our batteries kept sprinkling shrapnel over Bluebank with their usual steadiness and perfection of aim. The enemy’s gun was soon either silenced or withdrawn. The rifle fire died down. Not a Boer was to be seen upon the ridge, but three galloped away over the plains behind as though they had enough of it. The Light Horse dismounted and advanced to Star Point. All looked well. We expected to see infantry called up to advance upon the ridge, while our cavalry swept round upon the fugitives in the rear. But nothing of the kind happened.
Suddenly the Light Horse walked back to their horses and retired. One by one the batteries retired at a walk. The cavalry followed. Before two o’clock the whole force was back again over Range Post. The enemy poured in all the shells and bullets they could, but our men just came back at a walk, and only four were wounded. I am told General Brocklehurst was under strict orders not to lose men.
The shells did more damage than usual in the town. Three houses were wrecked, one “Long Tom” shell falling into Captain Valentine’s dining-room, and disturbing the breakfast things. Another came through two bedrooms in the hotel, and spoilt the look of the smoking-room. But I think the only man killed was a Carbineer, who had his throat cut by a splinter as he lay asleep in his tent.
Just after midnight a very unusual thing happened. Each of the Boer guns fired one shot. Apparently they were trained before sunset and fired at a given signal. The shells woke me up, whistling over the roof. Most of the townspeople rushed, lightly clad, to their holes and coverts. The troops stood to arms. But the rest of the night was quiet.’ Apparently the Boers, contrary to their character, had only done it to annoy, because they knew it teased us.
ENNUI ENLIVENED BY SUDDEN DEATH
LADYSMITH, November 15, 1899.
This drama is getting too long for the modern stage, and so far the Dutch have obeyed none of the dramatic rules. To-day was one monotony of rain, and may be blotted out from the memory of all but the men who lay hour after hour miserably soaking upon the edges of the hills. After the early morning not a shell was fired. The mist was too thick to allow even of wild shots at the town.
I had another try at getting a Kaffir runner to carry a telegram through to Estcourt.
November 16, 1899.
The sun came back to cheer us up and warm our bones. At the Liverpools’ picket, on the Newcastle road, the men at six o’clock were rejoicing in a glorious and soapy wash where the rain had left a pool in a quarry. The day passed very quietly, shells only falling on an average of one every half-hour. Unhappily a shrapnel scattered over the station, wounded three or four natives, and killed an excellent railway guard—a sharp fragment tearing through his liver and intestines. There was high debate whether the shell was thrown by “Silent Susan,” or what other gun. Some even stuck out for “Long Tom” himself. But to the guard it makes no difference, and he was most concerned.